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Red Wings Season Preview: Eaves/Miller/Ritola

Moving onto the forwards for the Wings in our season previews, today we'll tackle the depth guys.  These three are twelfth or lower on the Wings depth chart coming up this season.  Patrick "Shootout" Eaves is the 26-year old 6-foot, 191-pound right wing for Detroit that we signed for depth after Mikael Samuelsson moved on to Canuckier pastures and Jiri Hudler defected to the KHL for his tax-free payday.  Another first-round pick (29th overall by Ottawa in 2003) reclamation project, Eaves played for Ottawa and Carolina before being traded to Boston and having his contract bought out without ever having played a game for the Bruins.  Still enjoying his buyout money, Eaves is on a one-year, $750,000 contract with Detroit.  Following in the vein of depth players who are the second-most famous person in their family is fellow 26-year old (although you'd never tell by looking at his gray hair) Drew Miller, brother of some goalie or something.  Drew's a wiry 6'2" and 178-pounds who plays left wing and can lose faceoffs for you in a pinch if need be.  Drew was Anaheim's sixth-round pick in the 2003 entry draft where he won a cup with Anaheim and played for the Ducks against the Red Wings in their 2009 Western Conference Playoffs matchup (although he might not remember doing so, thanks to Brad Stuart).  He was traded to Tampa in Summer 2009 where he was put on waivers and claimed by Detroit.  His scrappy play and penalty kill abilities earned him a one-way contract worth $650,000 for the upcoming season.  Mattias Ritola is a 23-year old Swedish prospect from the Wings' system who's the same size a Patrick Eaves at 6-foot, 192 pounds, which should make it easy if one ever has to borrow clothes from the other.  Ritola was taken in the fourth round of the 2005 entry draft and has played the wing in Grand Rapids for the past two seasons.  He's in the first year of a three-year deal signed this year and the only year that has a two-way pay scale.  He'll make $105,000 at the AHL level and league minimum $500k with the big club.

Last Year's Benchmark: Eaves and Miller both got significant playing time with the Wings, at times moving up to 2nd-line duties as injuries dictated.  Both scored around 20 points in 65 games and were a pleasant surprise in the plus/minus column with Eaves at an even rating and Miller a +5.  They both played a role in Detroit's improved penalty killing performance last year.  Ritola played only five games for Detroit in 2009-10, recording no points and 9 shots on goal. In his 73 games with Grand Rapids, Ritola put up 42 points. 

Patrick Eaves

#17 / Right Wing / Detroit Red Wings



May 01, 1984


2009-2010 Stats










Eaves was a breakout player waiting to happen last year that didn't quite break out as injuries broke out.  Still with me?  Good. Detroit signed him in the hopes that he might be able to find the 20-goal magic that he had in his first season in Ottawa to help make up for some of their lost production from the previous year.  Early in the season, he clicked with is linemates Darren Helm and Jason Williams in what looked like the most dangerous Red Wings line for the first few games of the 2009-10 season.  As injuries hit, he was moved wherever the Wings needed a scrappy winger to play on an energy line.  Through necessity, the expectation that he would be more of a goal scorer was replaced with the reality that Detroit needed to use him as a grinder.  Still, all things considered, his offensive output was respectable.  Also, despite Brad May's presence on the team as the resident scrapper, Eaves was involved in the Wings' best fight of the year when he took on Kris Versteeg in a January 17th game against Chicago where he also scored a goal.  That fight had meaning for the club in a way that none of Mays' did and it really did help to energize the team.

Strengths: Eaves' wrister is described as "heavy".  It gets on goalies very fast and is hard to block and control.  His aim with it isn't perfect, but having him throw pucks at the net often leads to second-chance opportunities.  He's also very good on the boards and a speedy skater with good balance (unless he's in the shootout).  His willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team and keep working hard endears him to fans and teammates alike.

Weaknesses: Eaves, like so many NHLers fighting for spots at the bottom of lineups has trouble finishing his chances.  Like I said above, his accuracy isn't great and he's also prone to getting caught with his head down from time to time.  He has trouble consistently putting all of his skills to work for him at the same time.  Sometimes his hands work faster than his feet, and sometimes his feet are too quick for his hands.

Expectations: Eaves is likely going to bounce between being the #12 and #13 forward on the depth chart with Kris Draper.  At this point in their careers, Eaves has a better scoring touch than Draper and better speed, but Draper is a leader in the locker room.  Eaves should get his fair share of starts, but I'm looking for his total of games played to drop from 65 to somewhere in the 50s, depending on how the injury situation plays out.  With the lessened responsibility and ice time, he's likely to see his offensive production drop from last year's 10 goals and 22 points to somewhere around 7 goals.  When he's in the lineup, he'll be tasked with more of an energy line role and a penalty killing role, a job he's very good at.

Drew Miller

#20 / Left Wing / Detroit Red Wings



Feb 17, 1984

2009-2010 Stats











Former Michigan State Spartan Drew Miller played 14 forgettable games in Tampa Bay last year before being placed on waivers and picked up by Detroit at the start of their injury woes.  He found his way into the lineup immediately and stayed there for the rest of the season.  His ten goals set a career high, more than doubling his previous mark of four.  Unlike Eaves, Miller was brought on specifically to be a grinder and, despite having a bean-pole physique, played the role nicely, doggedly chasing pucks in both zones.  Along with Eaves, he was a helpful addition to a struggling Wings' penalty kill, showing that maybe blocking shots with your body is a genetic trait.

Strengths: Miller was brought up to play the Wings' style of two-way hockey.  He's very defensively responsible and works hard all over the ice.  He has that "do whatever it takes to get things done" quality (as evidenced with this goal against Tampa).  His penalty killing positioning is fantastic and he's one of the best PKers without a stick.

Weaknesses: Miller still gets pushed around a bunch due to his size.  He'll fight hard in the corner, but lacks the upper body strength to impose his will.  Also, while he has decent top speed, his first step isn't very explosive.  Seems it takes him a while to get up to speed.

Expectations:Miller will take a step down from the 60 games he played.  I think he makes the roster in reserve, but as #14 on the depth chart behind both Eaves and Draper.  He'll be ready to play whenever he gets called up, which will hopefully be for 30 or fewer games due to injury.  When he does get time with the big club, expect him to make an impact on the fourth line and penalty kill.

Mattias Ritola

#42 / Center / Detroit Red Wings



Mar 14, 1987

2009-2010 Stats (Grand Rapids)










Ritola came up for five games with the Red Wings last year, playing just over 11 minutes per game and recording nothing on the stat sheet except for 9 shots, leaving his shooting percentage slightly higher than Mikael Samuelsson's.  In his five games, he showed flashes of the skill that makes people think so highly of him, but is still a bit of a question mark.  His totals in Grand Rapids last year stayed roughly the same from the previous year (his plus/minus improved, but he scored the same number of points in more games), causing some to wonder if his skills had plateaued.

Strengths: Ritola has learned to use his size well for shielding the puck along the boards.  His hands are above average and he's a good passer. He's shown flashes of creativity.  He's also a very willing two-way player.

Weaknesses: For all of the raw talent he has, there are questions as to whether they've peaked or if he's still got some development left to do.  While his hands are excellent at the AHL level, scouts are unsure whether they'll ever be better than fringe-2nd-line level for his role in the NHL.  Consistency has been a problem for him as well as fighting for pucks that he doesn't already possess in the corners.

Expectations:  I think Ritola will be put on waivers before the start of the season to allow the Wings to send him back to Grand Rapids until there's room for him.  Holland knew what he was doing in making this a two-way year on his contract.  There are questions as to whether he'll clear waivers or be snapped up by a team looking for a developing skill guy on the cheap near the end of training camp.  I personally think he'll clear and get another season in Grand Rapids.  I don't think he'll get more than a handful of games at the NHL level this season, but look forward to him recording his first NHL point.

Next Up: Casey tries to tackle Helm and Abdelkader, but has to catch them first.